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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Is that Reasonable?

We can do this, and we must.

The Folly of the Fool (5)

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” Matthew 12.25

Questions, questions, questions
We begin to answer the fool according to his folly by taking our stand with our wrong-believing friend, on the platform of his own views and beliefs, following along and leading with questions to help him explain the foundations and structures of his worldview. We will do so with genuine interest, sincere respect, and careful listening.

By doing this we hope to use sound reason to demonstrate the faulty reasoning – the folly – of our friend’s beliefs.

We’ll ask important questions, foundational questions, such as: What kind of beings are we, and why are we here? What is the greatest good anyone could do, and should we do it? Is beauty real? Truth? Where did everything come from, what holds it together, and where is everything headed? What’s wrong with the world? Can we do anything about it? How have you come to these opinions, and how do you know they’re true? What do you most earnestly and sincerely hope for? Why?

We will want to pay careful attention to our friend’s answers, listening for evidence of faulty reasoning, for things that simply don’t make sense, precepts and views that don’t go together, beliefs and opinions that cannot be reconciled. We’ll also want to listen for views or convictions that sound like they may have come from the Bible, rather than our friend’s worldview.

This is what Paul was doing in Athens, and it’s what Jesus did in Matthew 12.

Jesus and His detractors
As Jesus was casting out demons, His detractors offered an explanation, from their perspective, for how He could do this. They said He was in league with the devil. Simple as that. Thus they hoped to undermine His credibility and deter His followers. Jesus began His answer to their foolish explanation with a simple analogy that must have left them feeling chagrined.

He simply pointed out that what they claimed doesn’t make any sense. How could He be in league with the devil while He was busy razing the devil’s house, taking him captive (v. 29), and taking all his plunder? Not only that, but their explanation didn’t account for an inconvenient reality: their own exorcists were also casting out demons – Biblical thing to do. Were their colleagues also in league with the devil?

This is easy enough to do with wrong-believers who are trapped in a web of deception and lies which is their worldview, but which to them seems altogether reasonable and right.

For example, our unbelieving friend may insist, when it comes to ethics, that there are no absolute values and everyone needs to be free to do whatever he thinks is right, as long as no one gets hurt.

But wait a second: if there are no absolute values, how can he make such a sweeping and absolute statement, as if his “no absolutes” worldview were absolutely so? If there are no absolutes, then not even that absolute is true. And how can the belief that one shouldn’t hurt others be fitted into a system where absolutes such as this are not allowed? Is that reasonable?

Or our friend may want to insist, without any evidence, that there is no God and we all simply have to make up our own minds about what’s true and best for us. But how can he know that? Does he know all things? If not, might he be willing to agree that, in the realm of things about which he knows nothing at all, there might be a God? And does he not, when he insists that each person must have the final say on his purpose and course in life, suggest, at least, that each individual human being is a kind of god unto himself? How do such authority-wielding “gods” resolve their differences apart from violence?

Or if your friend is more cosmic minded, he might wax eloquent about the splendid orderliness and knowability of a universe governed by chance. Think about that for a minute.

Or he might insist that there is no truth. Everything is relative. Truly? And relative to what? Or whom? Those same “gods” who will end up arguing with, screaming at, and doing violence to have their own way?

At the same time, like Paul in Athens, when we hear anything from him that sounds like Biblical truth, we’ll want to keep that in mind, and to point it out as such as our conversation continues.

Rife with folly
Wrong-believing worldviews are filled with such inconsistencies, contradictions, unexplainable anomalies, and notions borrowed from Scripture. Our task is to listen carefully for these and then to ask our friend to explain how he holds them all together, especially those which are clearly opposed to one another and impossible to reconcile.

At this point our questions must take the form, “How can this be?” or “How do you know that?” or “How do you explain this contradiction?” Having allowed the fool to scoot out onto the limb of credibility, we will now hand him the saw with which he will, as he tries to answer our questions, cut his own most cherished beliefs out from under him.

We don’t do this to be showy or snooty; and we don’t do this without gentleness, love, and respect. Our goal is to help our friend discover the folly of his convictions, convictions he has probably never taken the time to examine carefully. If we love our lost friends and neighbors, we will do what we can, as often as we can, to help them see the errors in their thinking, so that they might be better able to understand the truth that is in Jesus Christ.

And we will do this reasonably, winsomely, but firmly.

For reflection
1. Why do we need to challenge our wrong-believing friends to examine what they believe?

2. Look at Acts 17.32-34. What three responses might you expect to receive from a conversation such as we have been thinking about in this study?

3. If you listen patiently, respectfully, and with interest while your friends explain their views, do you think they will be more or less willing to listen as you explain yours? Explain.

Next steps – Conversation: This week, engage a wrong-believing friend in a conversation about his beliefs. You can do this. Keep your approach based on questions. See what you can find out. Do any inconsistencies or other evidences of faulty reasoning become evident?

T. M. Moore

You can download this and all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here. For a series of discussions on improving your conversational skills, begin here in our Personal Mission Field Workshop to learn the art of Christian conversation.

A companion book to this study, Understanding the Times, is available at our bookstore. Learn more about this book and order a free copy by clicking here. Our booklet, The Gospel of the Kingdom, can help ready you to proclaim the Good News. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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